Saturday, August 11, 2012

Dohtonbori - Osaka, Japan

After visiting Osaka a few times, I can now say that I love this vibrant, lively city.  At first, I had my doubts because the first three times I visited, strange and unusual incidents happened to me, but these days I enjoy Osaka so much that I've visited it more than any other place.

One place I would recommend is Dohtonbori.  There are a lot of shops and places to eat here.  It gets very crowded at night, as the lights come on and the people come out to enjoy eating some of Osaka's most famous foods, such as takoyaki, okonomiyaki, and horumon.

 I've never actually had horumon (intestines) but I loved this "family photo" in front of the restaurant.  It's so Japanese.

This is one of the best views of Dohtonbori.  On the right, the lighted Buddha figure on the building might have you scratching your head, but this is actually Don Quijote, a cheap department store with all sorts of goods.  If you plan on buying souvenirs, this is a great place to get them from...

Also, if you want to see the area by boat, there's one that takes you right down the river.  I wanted to ride the boat, but I missed out due to a number of "unusual" incidents.

While walking, you may come across a number of takoyaki restaurants.  Why not try one?

It's made of balls of dough stuffed with pieces of octopus. It's usually topped with onion, bonito flakes, and some mayo, while it's covered in a sauce.  It's really good and has a light, simple flavor.

Just watch out though.  It can be very hot, so don't burn yourself.  It's a challenge to eat takoyaki since you are given a toothpick, but it's worth every bite.

While walking, you may see a ton of other restaurants with interesting decorations and displays.  It's fun to take pictures around the area because there are so many eye-catching displays.

 This crab's claws actually move...

The side streets of Dohtonbori also have a lot to offer.  If you find the Turkish ice cream shop, you'll love the antics they play before you get your ice cream. It's hilarious to watch.

Osaka is a city you won't want to miss.  It's known for cheap, delicious food.  

Department Store Food Floors - Japan

At Japanese department stores, if you are looking for food, go to the basement.  There, you'll find all types of food.

Here's a glimpse.


Hamazushi - Nissin City, Aichi - Japan

In Japan, it seems so hi-tech at times ...

The first time I ate at Hamazushi, a chain sushi restaurant near my apartment, I was confused about how to order my food.

When you first enter the restaurant, you have to punch in how many people are in your party and if you'd like to sit at a table or a counter.  A receipt prints out and you wait until your number is called in Japanese.  For those who don't speak Japanese, this can be a complex chore.

Next, once you are seated, it's time to order food from your personal digital menu.  You can select what items you want and when it's ready, your sushi will come out on a special plate (high, black boat) with music playing to signal that it's approaching your table/counter on the conveyor belt.  There are other items that are on the conveyor belt for anyone to grab, but the one's on the special plates are orders from the digital menu.

When you need assistance from wait staff, you press the green button to the right and when you are ready to pay your bill, you press the yellow button below it.

I wanted to let you know this because if you eat at one of these places, you might accidentally pick up someone's ordered food on the conveyor belt.  I am sure it happens a lot since there are so many foreign students around here (like me!) who get confused for the first time.  Thankfully, someone taught me how to do this beforehand, but I'm sure I would have picked one up if no one told me.

They also offer green tea at Hamazushi.  Grab a cub, add some green tea powder, and fill it with hot water from a faucet at your table.

While it may be a challenge to order food initially, the price to eat sushi is dirt cheap!

A plate of sushi (two pieces) is 105 yen each. It's a little more than a dollar ...

Today, I had 4 plates of sushi (420 yen) and a slice of milk crepe cake (210 yen).  I ate for less than 1000 yen, which is great for a student budget.

Watermelon for 9,480 Yen? Outrageous Fruit Prices - Japan

Fruit in Japan can be ridiculously expensive.  

Last summer in Hawaii, I ate 12 watermelons for less than a hundred dollars in total.  In Japan, I have to pay approximately $4.00 for a slice at the supermarket.  This is "average."

However, I was SHOCKED by the price of a watermelon I saw in Osaka.  Guess how much this watermelon cost?  9,450 yen which is over a hundred dollars!

I am still wondering, "how do they determine a $10.00 watermelon from one that is $100.00?"  At the supermarket this summer, the cheapest whole watermelon I've seen is a little over $10.00, but $100.00 is insane.  

Watch out for prices when you buy fruit in Japan.  Don't get mixed up with the numbers!

A Spring Festival - Inuyama, Japan

In the spring, I went to a festival in Inuyama with a friend.  It was such a memorable day.  I completely indulged myself in all of the Japanese street food which enticed me in every direction, while I saw an amazing festival at night that made me fear for my life.

The main street was filled with food everywhere.  While I am familiar with the more traditional Japanese street or festival food such as takoyaki, dango, and monjayaki, I discovered a new food - a french dog.

A "French dog" is a humongous corn dog that could literally kill.  I would be scared to eat it because it has sausage inside that is 10 times bigger than a hot dog!  I was shocked.  If only I had a picture ...

While some people may have enjoyed the French dogs, I love the more traditional Japanese food.  I wanted to eat as much Japanese food as possible since I won't be here forever.

One of my favorites is dango, which is made out of rice and seasoned to perfection.  At least in my mind ... 

While I was enticed by the food, I'm sure these lovely masks made a lot of kids happy! I just love the bright color of these masks ... I can be really ADD at times.

After passing the food-filled streets, I became mesmerized by the beauty of the cherry blossoms.  Spring is a wonderful time to be in Japan!

I approached the temple area, but unfortunately the castle had closed its gates, so we could not enter.  I'm glad to have at least observed the beautiful temple area though and incredible view of the town.

After exploring the temple, it was time to finally watch the show.  It was the MOST amazing part of the festival, as I saw such incredible human strength as men moved the huge, festival structure below with all their might.

When the men carrying the structure move it to turn it onto another street, it looks as if it will fall and crush you.  I almost had a heart attack, but thankfully no one was injured that night.

There were nearly ten of these structures that were featured and they were all decorated in a similar, yet different fashion.  The lanterns were bright and swayed, while drums and music could be heard playing from inside.  Believe it or not, there are people inside!

I only wish I went to more of these.  If you visit Japan, please enjoy a festival while you are here because it adds to the cultural experience.  And don't forget to try the street food!

Miso Katsu at Maison - Nissin City, Nagoya, Japan

Although a lot of people like Yabaton and say it's the best place to eat tonkatsu, I actually love miso katsu at Maison.

There's a small restaurant near my apartment that has amazing tonkatsu and it's extremely filling, especially if you order a "set."  In Japan, if you order your meal as a set, you get a little more for your money.  In my case, I paid an extra 315 yen for a bowl of rice (with radish leaves in it) and a parfait.  Cabbage and soup also comes with your meal for free.

I love the set concept because you only pay a little more for a whole lot more food.  

Kiyomizu Temple - Kyoto, Japan

Kiyomizu Temple, one of my favorite places to visit in Kyoto, is a World Heritage Site located in Eastern Kyoto near the Gion area.

Before reaching Kiyomizu, there's a beautiful village surrounding the temple.  Although some streets are quiet, others are filled with crowds.   There are a lot of shops and restaurants here selling traditional foods like green tea, tofu, and mochi.

 When finally reaching the temple area, the view is incredible.

Before entering Kiyomizu, people often "cleanse" themselves by pouring water on their hands with the provided ladles.  You don't have to do this to enter the temple, but why not try it for the experience?

Here's a spectacular view of the temple from a distance.  You can pray and purchase good luck charms inside.

There's also another shrine located at Kiyomizu. It's a temple for love.  In the temple, there are two love stones inside.  If you close your eyes and find your way to the other rock, you may find your true love.  

Down below, there are some areas to eat a snack and enjoy the scenery.

The three streams of water below is where Kiyomizu received its name.  It means pure water.  You can make wishes here.

If you are worried about germs, purchase a ladle instead of using the free ones provided.

Enjoy the town!  If you are lucky, you may see Maiko walking around (apprentice Geisha).  

Also, if you have time and money, why not try a rickshaw?  

Kiyomizu is one of my favorite places in Kyoto!  I love being here because it's beautiful and reminds me of a more traditional Japan.  The air feels so fresh and natural here too.


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